I must admit, I’m still getting used to this posting-once-a-week schedule. It’s been good to me, in that it’s freed up some much needed time, and it allows me to focus my blogging energy into one really good, really solid post each week. I like that. But still, I can’t help but miss our more frequent interaction. I miss you guys!
Anyway, a few weeks back I posted a short series on some of my very favorite food preservation methods (Part I here and Part II here). So today I want to share some of the actual projects I’ve undertaken this summer and autumn, in order to capture and extend the incredible bounty that these seasons bring.
Early last spring, a little boy planted a sunflower seed. And every day the little boy pulled up the weeds, and sprinkled the ground with water. And then, one day, a sunflower came up!
Yes it’s true, Waits grew a sunflower. Two sunflowers, actually, at 8 ft tall apiece. His mama was very proud.
And after they’d dropped their petals and begun to droop, we cut the heads and let them dry completely. One went to preschool for the kids to play with as they pleased, and one stayed home with us, for saving. A long time ago I posted a comprehensive tutorial for properly harvesting sunflower seeds, and that’s basically exactly what we did. It was really fun! A great project for the kiddo, and we had tons of seeds when we were done. Some went into his sensory table, and some went into a jar to plant next year. And the rest . . . went into our tummies!
Home-roasted sunflower seeds. Super simple:
Make up a solution of salt water using a ratio of roughly 1:4 salt to water. Stir the solution until the salt is fully dissolved, then soak the sunflower seeds in the saltwater overnight. The next day, spread the seeds on a lined baking sheet and bake at low temperature (200-300º) until they just barely begin to turn golden (a few hours, depending on the temperature).
Allow to cool and then dig in! Or, these will keep in an airtight container for a long time, so save them for a tasty treat come midwinter.
My godparents have a banana tree, and by the end of summer they were positively drowning in an overabundance of bananas. We couldn’t keep up! Even my little guy who totally hearts bananas, couldn’t eat them fast enough.
Again, super simple, super easy. To make fruit roll-ups, I just put a bunch of bananas in the blender and added a couple pints of strawberries. You can really use whatever combination of fruit you want.
Blend. I didn’t need to add water because the VitaMix is crazy powerful, but since these are going to be dehydrated anyway, it’s okay to add a bit of water if you need to, just to get it to run completely smooth.
Once blended, spoon it onto the nonstick dehydrator mats, like so:
And then dehydrate at 115º, well, until done? I don’ know the exact time, it sort of depends on how big you make them. I did it overnight, probably around 10 hours.
Once they’re done you can roll them in wax paper, tape them shut, and store them in the fridge. I can’t wait to dig these out in the middle of winter when we haven’t had locally grown fruit in ages. It’ll be such a treat!
2013 was sort of a jalapeño year for me. I couldn’t tell you why (cosmic metaphor?), but they were everywhere! Waits and I grew a few plants all the way from seed, which was fun. But then they started showing up in my CSA box. Every week. More and more of them. And no way could I eat that many!
So I did what I always do when faced with a plethora of tasty veggies: I fermented!
I used a super basic, generic fermented vegetable recipe. You can pretty much insert anything and it’ll end up tasting great. The base brine is made from 1 tablespoon sea salt (non-iodized) in 1 cup filtered water, scaled to as much brine as you need (so 2 tablespoon in 2 cups, 3 in 3, etc).
Cut your vegetables however you like. For this batch I cut the jalapeños into rings and added carrots cut on the bias, and whole garlic cloves. Stuff all the veggies down into a jar, then cover with the brine. Use a sandwich bag filled with water, or another jar, or something to weigh down the veggies and keep them submerged in the brine. You can cover with a rag or cheesecloth but I didn’t, since the sandwich baggie basically covered the whole top.
Allow the vegetables to culture in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. After a few days you can taste them. When they’re as sour/fermenty as you like them, move them to the fridge and put a lid on them. They’ll keep in the fridge indefinitely.
These spicy pickles have become an absolute favorite of my not-boyfriend and mine. We’ve been using them on our beans/greens/grains bowls this fall, and they’re SO good. There’s no way they’ll make it to winter, haha.
And finally, it’s not exactly seasonal, but my not-boyfriend and I were recently tasked with making [vegan] Mexican rice for no less than 100 people, when my dear friends Ingrid and Terry got married. It was so fun! I’ve never made food for that many people before, and the dish was a huge hit (yay vegan!), buuuuut we sort of overestimated on the rice part. And we ended up with my giant salad serving bowl full of rice, and no way to eat it before it went bad.
So, into the freezer it went! I formed the rice into balls, spread them out on a baking sheet, and froze them. Once they were solid I transferred them to a big gallon jar. Now I’ll be able to pull out single serving portions whenever I need brown rice. I love my freezer and the way it saves me from wasting food!
I have one last preservation project I’m working on this fall. Way back in the early summer, our preschool moved locations, and as we were packing up for the move, I noticed that the carob tree was heavy with pods. Not wanting to leave them behind, Waits and I hastily harvested the lot of them, even though some were still quite green. I took them home and spread them out int he sun, where they sat for a few weeks drying.
So now I’m sitting on a basket of brown pods. I’ll let you know if I’m ever successful in turning them into carob powder . . .
And what about you? Any awesome preservation projects this year? Please do share, I know I’m not the only one who finds such inspiration in the comments section here.
Love you guys!
A few months back I was telling Damian all about my adventures at LA Vegan Beer Fest, and Damian – himself a veg*n of 4 years – was like, “Wait, some beer isn’t vegan?”
And he’s not alone. Many people, including many vegans, don’t realize (or even think to realize) that their favorite spirits, beers, and wines, may be produced or refined using animal products. Liquor is generally a pretty low risk (liqueurs and cordials pose the biggest threats), and there’s only a moderate concern when it comes to beers and ciders. The biggest offenders – and unfortunately there’s really no way to know the exact numbers – are the wines.
It’s sad but true, wine isn’t made with just grapes and love alone. The fining process, in which the wine is clarified to remove large particles, often employs animal-derived ingredients. The most common non-vegan fining agents are:
- Isinglass – a very pure form of gelatin from fish bladders, typically sturgeons.
- Gelatin – from boiled cow’s or pig’s hooves and sinews.
- Albumin – the opaque stringy part of egg whites.
- Casein – the main protein in milk, familiar to vegans as that nefarious ingredient that makes many popular “non-dairy” cheeses actually non-vegan cheeses.
These animal products are used to “fine” or filter the wine, making it visually clear. A fining agent binds to the microscopic particles and crystals that occur naturally during the fermentation and aging process. Without fining, wines end up with sediment, “floaties,” or an unattractive haziness (think kombucha). Fining also helps to remove excess tannins, which can create a hard edge in red wines.
But of course, these animal-derived ingredients are totally unnecessary. Vegan wines can be made using natural ingredients like bentonite clay, which work just as well to enhance the temperature stability of wine, and prevent floaties from forming in the barrel, bottle, or glass. It’s a shame that bentonite has not become the industry standard, and it’s even more shameful that wine manufacturers are not required to list fining agents on their labels! But I digress. It is what it is, and lucky for us, there’s some really awesome vegan companies stepping up, and getting the word out.
The Vegan Vine
Vegan Vine wines are California grown, cruelty-free, and certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrower’s Alliance. They offer 4 selections – 2 white and 2 red, and they were kind enough to send me a sample of each. So I sat down with a few close friends, popped the corks, and got to tasting. We made a little video which I hope you enjoy! (If you don’t want to watch the whole video, there’s also abbreviated tasting notes below.)
Sauvignon Blanc – Bright and fresh, hints of apple and strong on the citrus. We all agreed that this is a quintessential “afternoon wine”, perfect for pairing with a porch, a salad, and some good company (or if you’re Ingrid, a good book).
Chardonnay – All of us liked this bright white wine, but we all agreed that it’s not a typical Chardonnay, and someone looking for that customary “big buttery flavor” may find themselves disappointed. Still, we enjoyed this wine with its notes of butterscotch, caramel, and fig. So, it’s good, but not if you’re hankering for that traditional rich ‘n creamy Chardonnay flavor.
Red Blend – A floral nose with lots of vanilla which scared me, because I hate vanilla in my wine. Luckily there’s no vanilla on the palate, which is rich and full with berry and chocolate and black tea and tobacco. However, we were split on our feelings about this wine. Jeremy didn’t care for it. I thought it was good and light, quite drinkable. Ingrid, Terry, and Clovis all loved it. So, you know, wine is subjective!
Cabernet Sauvignon – Soooo good! Our very favorite, I think we all agreed. Full-bodied with ripe berry and plum, balanced against tobacco and spice. It’s a shame the video got cut off, because this was the best wine of the night!
Thanks so much to my beloved friends for letting me film them while filling their bellies with the demon drink! Thank you to Ingrid Luna (you can see her fine art here and her Etsy shop here), to Terry Luna (you can listen to The Mutineers and their amazing brand of floor-stomping beer-swilling rabble-rousing Americana alt country, here), to Clovis IV (see his inspired music and portrait photography here) (oh, he also shot the anti-meat dress!), and to Jeremy, our wine specialist and illustrious sommelier for the evening. Thank you so much my dears.
And of course, a special thank you to The Vegan Vine, and to ethical winemakers everywhere! We’re coming right up on the holiday season, so I do hope you’ll keep these cruelty-free options in mind when you’re planning your impending festivities.
After Saturday’s long day of travel and epic dinner at Millennium, we spent a lazy Sunday morning lounging around our room at the Hotel California. But considering the epic-ness of the previous night’s meal, we actually woke up pretty dang hungry! So by mid-morning we had packed our bags, grabbed some hotel coffee, and hit the road. We were on a mission! To the Mission District.
Oh, Gracias Madre.
If there are two restaurants you should hit up while visiting San Francisco, they’re Millennium and Gracias Madre. Hands down, period.
Gracias Madre is all local, all organic, and all vegan. They use real, whole foods – no faux meats, in fact I don’t think they even offer tofu. Just hand-crafted, made-from-scratch, totally to-die-for Mexican food.
We started with a couple of aguas frescas: one with watermelon, one with cilantro and jalapeño, both delicious. The atmosphere in Gracias Madre is so great, just totally cozy, but still airy and bright.
So much goodness. While we were waiting for our entrees, we discovered that our table had a drawer in it, and this drawer was filled with fantastic little notes. Some were sordid and some were sweet, some were deeply personal and others, completely banal. It reminded me a bit of Post Secret. There were confessions of love and admissions of adultery, funny little anecdotes and simple shopping lists. Either way, a voyeurs dream.
Entrees! We got three – two to eat there and the Pozole to take for later.
What a meal! Needless to say, there were lots of leftovers.
Afterwards, I wandered up to the counter to admire the tee shirts, and when I turned around, I found myself face to face with . . . Jason Wrobel! AGAIN! (further proof that Millennium and Gracias Madre are THE top two restaurants in SF – and that great minds think alike!). We were shocked and delighted to bump into each other yet again, and we all had a nice chat out on the patio while Jason and Whitney waited for their food. And, we got to meet the adorable vegan wonder-dog, Evie.
It was great to see them again, but we had to get on the road. We had a concert to get to! Tom Waits, that night, in Mountain View California.
So we had a bit of driving ahead of us, and I was pretty eager to get as close as humanely possible to the venue, as soon as humanely possible, lest some unforeseen obstacle arise at the last moment. (Paranoid? Yes. But hello! TOM WAITS!)
We grabbed a couple of juices – carrot ginger beet for him, and this crazy kale concoction for me – and then we were on our way.
We made it to our hotel in good time, freshened up and changed into “concert gear” (the concert was outdoors, on the lawn/picnic style, and it was coooold), packed up our cooler and blanket, and headed over. It was late afternoon and I was going to see Tom Waits. And I was having trouble managing my feelings about that. Sometimes, when really big huge almost-incomprehensible things are about to happen, I get a little . . . . aloof . . . about it. So that’s how I was, that afternoon. A little unsure of how to cope with the potential import of the experience, and thus, a little aloof.
I just assumed – since obviously, Tom Waits is the greatest musician to ever live – that he would go on late. But obviously Neil Young has some unresolved jealousy issues or something, because he put Tom Waits on early, around 7pm (also possible that the time slot was because he was added last minute, but I don’t know – that Neil Young can be pretty shifty). But that was great news to me!
And that aloofness? Well it all melted away, the minute the first chord struck. And I was rapt with tears running down my face, so acutely, exquisitely present in the magnitude of that moment. And that’s as close as I’ll ever get to feeling spiritual, I think.
I wish I had good pics for you, but I don’t. They didn’t let us bring cameras in, and the lawn, even our stellar seats on the lawn, was still very far away from the stage. Luckily they had giant screens and so even though I was farther away than I’d ever been when seeing Tom Waits before, I felt closer because for the first time I could really see his face – which for Tom Waits, is a big part of the show.
Yeah, my iPhone pics just cannot do it justice. You’ll have to trust me when I say that it was a perfect sermon. There was magic in that air, so thick you could practically lick it.
After his set we decided to take off – it was cold and we’d gotten what we’d come for. We hopped into a cab for a quick ride down to a local wine bar that had just opened up. We enjoyed a good Nebbiolo and a not-so-good Rhone Valley blend, and then realized we were like, super hungry! But 9pm on a Sunday in a small town, and our prospects didn’t look so good. Happy Cow wasn’t showing much, but on a whim we just decided to start walking – we were down town after all – to see if we had any luck.
And boy, did we ever!
Bushido Izakaya is an AMAZING Japanese restaurant with a whole little vegan section of their menu, it was so awesome. They were knowledgable and accommodating, and totally sweet. We just couldn’t believe our luck. This meal was superb!
That Hollywood Roll? GAME CHANGER. If you used to be a fan of raw fish sushi, but choose to no longer eat animals, then you *must* try young coconut on your sushi! It has such a similar texture, the experience was uncanny. Can’t wait to try to replicate this at home!
All in all, it’s hard for me to imagine a more amazing night. Slept like a rock – a very happy rock.
The next morning I woke up with an unexpected sense of peace – like some teeny tiny tingle of anxiety, buried so deep it had been unrealized, was now quieted. I think that maybe I always knew I was supposed to see Tom Waits that third time, and I had been waiting for it.
In 2004 I saw Tom Waits play, and I saw that show with the first great love of my life, Matt. And we went to that show with my very good friend. My friend Damian. True story!
In 2008 I caught Tom Waits live again, this time with my husband – Damian. And we happened to go to that show with an old friend. Our old friend Matt. True story!
But In 2013 I finally released myself from both of those men, those two men who had ruled my heart so completely for almost my entire adult life. In 2013 I feel independent in a way I can’t ever remember having felt before. And this? This concert? Well I can’t imagine a more poignant expression of that. And it feels perfect, this third-times-a-charm little cap on my Tom Waits trilogy. It feels like . . . closure.
All my love!
♥ ♥ ♥
Thank you so much to all the people who helped make it possible for us to eat/sleep/stay/explore the way we did on this trip. We couldn’t have done it without your generosity, so THANK YOU! You know who you are.
And this past weekend, my not-boyfriend and I took a little road trip, to see Mr Waits play a live benefit concert in northern California. And it’s sort of impossible for me to even begin to express the significance of this event – of Tom Waits. Of Tom Waits in my life. I actually started writing a story about it last year, about the way that Tom Waits and his music have been this constant thread in my life, all interconnected and synergistic, and all the giddy tiptoe kisses and all the gutwrench broken hearts. And that story is already 17 pages long, not even close to completion, so I do hope you’ll understand that there’s no way for me to explain the contextual significance of this weekend in any real or meaningful detail.
We hit the road pretty early, fueled by veggie juice and black tea and wanderlust. Which took us to about mid-morning. Luckily I’d packed snacks!
That held us over until the afternoon. There was also a latte pit stop at some point in there, and then on the last leg of our drive we snacked on these fantastic RAW barbecue zucchini chips that we’d made on a whim very very late a few nights earlier, while wee Waits Rebhal was asleep (we had some serious zucchini overflow going on). “The couple that sits cross-legged on the living room floor in the middle of the night slicing mountains of zucchini together, stays together”, I think is how that old saying goes? Right?
We reached San Francisco in the late afternoon/early evening, and headed straight for our hotel. The Hotel California. The hotel that houses Millennium restaurant!
We had later-night reservations for dinner at Millennium, so after checking in, relaxing a bit, and freshening up, we headed out for a bit of pre-dinner exploring. What we ended up finding was a bookstore-turned-bar, and some incredible seasonal cocktails.
These were some seriously fantastic cocktails, so elegantly crafted and seasonally spot-on. Perfect to combat the cold and windy weather outside!
I happen to think that drinks and great conversation should always be promptly followed by a knock-your-socks-off meal, don’t you?
And when it was finally all said and done?
As we were getting ready to depart, I glanced across the room to the end of the bar, and . . . did a little double take! Whoa! I said to my not-boyfriend, that couple is a pair of dopplegangers for Whitney and Jason!
My not-boyfriend turned around, looked at the couple, looked back at me, and said Nope, that’s totally Whitney and Jason.
If you’re not familiar, Whitney Lauritsen – aka Eco-Vegan Gal – is an LA-based super sweet and totally kick-ass (also, absolutely stunning) vegan media maven who has taken YouTube by storm! And Jason Wrobel is an LA-based educator, chef, and host of the first ever vegan cooking show on TV, “How To Live To 100″. And together, they just so happen to be the cutest damn couple south of King City, California.
As we were getting ready to make our way over to say hi, Whitney and Jason began chatting all excitedly with another couple a bit further down the bar. And when the bartender moved out of the way, who did I see sitting there but freakin’ Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (she needs no explanation, right?) and her husband (who has the best hair, ever. period).
So of course we went over to say hi, because hello?! Serendipity! And it was like suddenly a giant bomb of vegan awesomeness exploded down at the end of the bar at Millennium. I’d met Whitney before at the last Vida Vegan Con, and Colleen I’d met at the first Vida Vegan Con, but I’d never met Jason or Colleen’s husband David, and of course, my not-boyfriend hadn’t met any of them. So handshakes were flying and hugs were hugging and then all of a sudden, to top it all off, a Bonzai reader and her man came up to say hi! (Hi guys!) Oh my god! So crazy.
From there it was time for us to retire, and if I’m being honest I’ll also admit that we MAY have taken a Chocolate Almond Midnight (almond cashew crust, mocha chocolate filling, raspberry sauce, white chocolate mousse) to go, and eaten it in bed later that night.
So, I was going to post this whole big trip in one shebang, but this is already so picture-heavy that I think I’ll save the second day for a separate post. Coming soon!
Thank you so much to all the people who helped make it possible for us to eat/sleep/stay/explore the way we did on this trip. We couldn’t have done it without your generosity, so THANK YOU! You know who you are.
I have always been this way – being raised by my single mother to appreciate and to conserve, compounded by a tendency towards thriftiness that’s totally inherent. I consider this a gift, as it’s given me a whole lot of freedom, my love of secondhand treasures, and a contentedness with having less that I rarely witness amongst my peers.
So yes, I’m an economizer, especially in the kitchen. Which means I’ve had a lot of practice making the most out of leftover odds and ends, eking out a meal from the seemingly discarded bits and pieces, always determined not to let anything go to waste. And during this past year of post-separation/trying to land on my feet/trying to survive on so much less/single-mothering pandemonium, I’ve had to kick my conservation creativity up into overdrive.
And I’ve been pretty creative. That kale up there for example? Each bunch that I buy serves me in three completely separate and wholly unique ways. Three distinct forms of food from every leaf of kale. Triple the serving, triple the nutrients, triple the savings!
It all starts with the whole leaf, as pictured above. From there the first thing I do is de-rib, by separating the soft leaves from the woody stems. The leaves are eaten, almost always as either kale chips or steamed up and served in a heaping pile for dinner, like so:
What I’m left with after that is the woody stems, but they never last long. Into the juicer they go!
Mmm green juice. The stems from dark leafy greens are just as nutritious as the leaves (that goes for broccoli, too) so I never want to just throw them away. Juicing is the perfect solution!
The stuff that comes out of my juicer looks like this:
Pulp! The liquid, along with many of the vitamins and minerals and antioxidants, have been extracted into the juice, but my kale isn’t finished working yet! There’s still plenty of green goodness in there, and I am determined to get it!
All the juice pulp goes into containers which I keep in my freezer, adding to them each day when I juice, until I’ve amassed a collection of 5 or six full tubs of veggie bits – that includes trimmings like carrot tops and cucumber ends, onion skins and garlic husks, and of course the juice pulp. And at that point, when I’ve got a bunch . . .
I make vegetable broth! I put all those veggie scraps in my big stock pot, cover it with water, add salt and oil to draw out the nutrients, add a bit of kombu or dulse to kick it up a notch, and then let it simmer. What I get is a delicious, rich broth that’s brimming with vitamins and minerals to enhance all my beans, grains, pastas, soups, and spreads. Because I make broth so often I have a ton of it, so I use it in everything from homemade hummus to my breakfast pudla. I even cook Waits’s pasta in it! It adds lots of flavor, plus so much extra nutrition.
Once the broth is strained, the boiled veggie mush gets dumped into the compost bin, where, come to think of it, it continues to work for me and my family. And that, my friends, is the end of the line for good ol’ kale. Not too shabby, right?!
I’ve used kale as my example here, but of course I do this with all my produce. My vegetables are always pulling double and triple duty, between my dinner plate, my juicer/blender, and my stock pot.
I’ve also been experimenting with other produce maximization methods. For example, if you take a head of lettuce or celery, you can cut off the leaves/stalks for normal use, and then place the leftover stump in a bowl of water. The stump will actually begin to produce a new plant! It’s kind of crazy, but it totally works. You can do this with lettuce, bok choy, green onions, and garlic.
Another one I’ve set my sights on is ginger! Apparently, when your ginger root begins to bud in the fruit bowl, you can plant the whole thing in a pot – bud up – and grow an actual ginger plant. I’m trying it out:
The idea is that you can grow an actual ginger plant, so that besides just having another beautiful houseplant, you can also dig up and hack off a piece of the root every time your recipe calls for ginger. This project is still in progress, so I’ll have to check back in and let you know how it goes!
Do you have any tricks for making the most out of your produce? I’d love to hear them, so please share in the comments. I’m sure you guys have lots of amazing ideas – let’s compile an awesome resource here!